10 April 2009

Behold the Man

Sons and daughters of God, your Father loves you. He is not mad at you; He never has been. And He is not mean. You have known meanness, and you have been mean yourself, but your God and Father is not mean. He is not cruel, as the devil would have you believe, neither toward you nor toward Christ Jesus, His beloved Son.

Everything your God and Father does proceeds in love; and in His love for you, He desires to give you only good things, and that you would live with Him in love.

So your Father in heaven gives you good gifts here on earth, and He gives you the freedom to receive and enjoy them. He gives you the freedom to love Him, or to leave Him. He takes that risk, because He desires to have a real relationship with you; that you should be His dear child, His friend, and the beloved bride of Christ, rather than a slave.

He desires you to love Him above all else; not because He is insecure or prideful, but because He is your Life and your greatest good. He is jealous for you; not as though He were petty, as you are sometimes petty, but for your sake. He is jealous for you, the way a husband is jealous for his wife, a mother for her child. So, too, He is angry with your sin, and He punishes it, because it cuts you off from Him and kills you, whereas He would have you live and not die.

You fathers and mothers, if your child was running out into the road, into harm's way, you would holler and perhaps even become angry; not because you sought your child's hurt, but precisely because you seek to protect your child from harm and danger. God your Father likewise seeks to preserve your life with Him, in love more pure than that of any father or mother on earth. He disciplines you in love, and He calls you to repentance, to faith in Him; again, that you would live.

To live by such faith in God is a high and holy calling. It is to live as true Man in the Image of God. To live by such faith in God is to live the truly human life that God intends. It is to trust His Word in every circumstance, even if everything is screaming in contradiction of His Word. It is yet to wait upon Him in steady hope and quiet confidence. To give thanks, not only at all times and in all places, but also in both prosperity and poverty.

To live by faith in God is to be patient in affliction; to be patient with your family, as your God and Father is patient with you; and to be patient with your neighbor. It is to be kind, to do good, and gladly to forgive your enemies and those who sin against you. To suffer all manner of wrong and hurt and sorrow, rather than strike back and avenge yourself.

To live by such faith is to have your heart so fixed upon the Lord, your God, that even in death you fear no evil; that all things may be utterly stripped away from you, all to no avail, because you live with God.

To such a life you are called, and the One who calls you is faithful. He is not taunting you or teasing you, but He calls you to that genuine Life which is in and with Him, both now and forever. He is faithful in granting you that life to which He calls you, not only because He is God and keeps His promises, but because from His own heart He loves you.

His love for you is unmatched and unsurpassed. But it is not uncontested. His love is resisted and rejected on all sides, within and without. Your sinful heart is covetous; you desire what God has not given, and what is not God. The whole world, too, is idolatrous, lusting after the creation while despising the Creator, and seeking to entice you into its perversity. And the devil is furious with you, hateful and murderous; he will stop at nothing to destroy you and drag you down with himself. These three enemies, the devil, the world and your own sinful flesh, conspire against you, and against the Life and Love of God, to separate you from Him.

"Skin for skin," the devil says, and too easily, too often, you fall for that trap. Thus, when God commands you to love Him, you consider the command to be burdensome; and when He commands you to love your neighbor, you consider that unfair and unreasonable. When He punishes your sin, you perceive not His love for you, but anger. When He disciplines you in love, as a father disciplines his son or daughter, and when He calls you to repentance, you flee from Him instead, to the false "freedom" of idoltary: to be your own god and make your own life.

Your sinful heart is frightened of death and desperate to avoid it; yet, your sinful heart knows nothing except the pursuit of death. You fear not God, but you are afraid of Him. You run away and hide at His approach, terrified that He will rob you of life and bring you to death. But in running away from Him, you run directly into death.

Your fear is false; not only because it is sinful and wrong, but because it is quite mistaken and misplaced.

Fear God, not in terror of death, but in faith and love. The Life to which He calls you is the Truth, and it is not so elusive as it seems; because it is lived for you in the flesh and blood of Christ.

It is not God, but your sin that brings you to grief and sorrow and death. But here now is what He does: His Love has brought Him to the same, to grief and sorrow and death, for you and your salvation.

Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Behold the Man. For here in Christ the Crucified, you behold God as He truly is, perfect in love; and in the same Christ Jesus, you behold Man as He is to be, perfect in faith and love.

In Him, all that has been broken, including your relationship with God, is repaired, healed and made new. Here in Christ Jesus, in His flesh and blood upon the Cross, God completes and fulfills His good creation. And behold, it is very good.

Here in Christ the Crucified, true Man lives with God, by faith and in His gracious love, while everything else is entirely stripped away. Here, sin and death and all that separates you from God, all of it is dealt with and removed. The brokenness is broken, and death is put to death. And in all the depths of suffering, grief and sorrow, Christ Jesus remains faithful — to His Father, and to you.

He lives by faith entirely in and with God — and this He does for you, in your skin — so that sin and all its curse and consequence are not allowed to prevail over man.

Everything is achieved and accomplished in Christ, and established for you in Christ, in His flesh. He is a faithful and merciful High Priest for you in things pertaining to God, and He brings you to the Father in Himself.

God and man, faith and love, righteousness and peace, all are perfectly reconciled and united in Him. His faithfulness, His freedom and His right use of it, His patience and steadfastness, His victory over death and the grave, and His life with God, all are yours. Not only in a book or in your memory, but given into your hand and mouth, into your body with all its frailities and weaknesses. Your body, therefore, though it suffers and dies, shall yet live with God in Christ.

Here is not only God's pledge to you, but God Himself given to you. Not simply His good example, but Him. Here your Father's heart is fully open to you in love, and He delights to give you every good thing in Christ Jesus. Whatever else may happen to you; whatever may be done to you or said about you; whatever may be given to you, or taken away from you, in this flesh and blood of Christ Jesus you are alive with God, your Father, who loves you.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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